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- admin - 20-04-2009 07:46 PM

I want to be very familiar with St Cyril and then read the EO and OO fathers from there.

Daniel Keating has produced an excellent book in The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria and I have returned to it several times, and will do so now.

He has a whole chapter on the concept of Partaking in the Divine Nature which he roots in baptism and the eucharist. I'll post the abstract here and re-read the chapter.

Quote:Abstract: Aims to investigate what Cyril means by the phrase, ?partakers of the divine nature? (2 Pet. 1:4), in the hope that this will provide us with a key for unlocking his understanding of the extent and limit of our kinship with God and its relation to Christ?s unique sonship. Does Cyril?s account of our participation in the divine nature threaten to blur the distinction between the Creator and creation, between things divine and things human? Focusses especially on the concept of participation in Cyril and concludes that Cyril presents us with a rather complex christology in which the incarnate Christ, as genuinely occupying the common frontier of humanity and divinity, in one sense is, and in another sense is not, the pattern for our participation in the divine life.

Father Peter


- marc hanna - 20-04-2009 08:28 PM

A couple tidbits from Norman Russell:

"Gregory tends to avoid the language of participation. Nowhere, for
example, does he quote 2 Pe 1:4. Nor is deification is said to be
equivalent to adoption. ... the emphasis is on moral progress and ascent
of the soul."
-Norman Russel: The Doctrine of Deification p. 224

[St Cyril] "follows closely in his predecessor's (Saint Athanasius)
footsteps uninfluenced for the most part by the writings of the Cappadocians."
-Norman Russell: Partakers of the Divine Nature

The verb theopoiou is not used in philosophical contexts. It expresses
the bringing about of a change in the believer by Christ, a promotion
from the fallen condition of humanity to a state freed from subjection to
death. Christ's teaching is all-sufficient. ? theopoiesis is therefore
fundamentally a product of Christian discipleship. This is because to be
deified is to attain immortality, and immortality is not an innate
human characteristic but a gift from God. It does not come about
through the realization of the essential self, as in Platonism, but is
granted as a result of fidelity to the teaching of Christ and his Church.
- Norman Russel: The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition p. 161


- marc hanna - 21-04-2009 04:05 PM

admin Wrote:I want to be very familiar with St Cyril and then read the EO and OO fathers from there.

Daniel Keating has produced an excellent book in The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria and I have returned to it several times, and will do so now.

He has a whole chapter on the concept of Partaking in the Divine Nature which he roots in baptism and the eucharist. I'll post the abstract here and re-read the chapter.

Quote:Abstract: Aims to investigate what Cyril means by the phrase, ?partakers of the divine nature? (2 Pet. 1:4), in the hope that this will provide us with a key for unlocking his understanding of the extent and limit of our kinship with God and its relation to Christ?s unique sonship. Does Cyril?s account of our participation in the divine nature threaten to blur the distinction between the Creator and creation, between things divine and things human? Focusses especially on the concept of participation in Cyril and concludes that Cyril presents us with a rather complex christology in which the incarnate Christ, as genuinely occupying the common frontier of humanity and divinity, in one sense is, and in another sense is not, the pattern for our participation in the divine life.

Father Peter

Wow, that is an expensive book here in Canada, almost $200 (80 pounds I think Smile ). Are there any less expensive copies available in England?


- Rick Henry - 26-04-2009 09:42 PM

marc hanna Wrote:However, when I see what I believe to be erroneous understanding of the faith, I am compelled to speak.
Dear Marc,

Thanks again for your help understanding the distinction that is being drawn between theopoieis and theosis. I think as I am able to see this a little more clearly now some of what is being said in this conversation is that:

1.) Gregory (Nazianzus) is charged with "speculative theology" in his bringing in new terminology and a new concept viz. theosis within Eastern Orthodoxy.

2.) There is a charge of a Hellenistic influence (as well as some aspects of Origenism) which has effected the shaping of the doctrine of theosis [from Gregory forward] within Eastern Orthodoxy.

3.) The way of asceticism has been elevated in importance and is taught as the vehicle or way which is more of an active way, within Eastern Orthodoxy, as opposed to the ancient doctrine of theopoeisis which looks to the Spirit to bestow gifts on the Christian who receives them passively, and through Grace.

Does this sound accurate to you Marc? Please offer any correction or "tune-ups" where you think they are needed.

Thanks again very much.

In Christ,
Rick


- marc hanna - 27-04-2009 03:37 AM

I think essentially you have the idea. Regardless of which doctrine you agree with, my base point in this thread, is that there is indeed two separate teachings that today are commonly taught as one.


- Rick Henry - 27-04-2009 11:59 AM

Dear Marc,

Thanks for the feedback! And, now that I have a toehold on this, I think I would like to try for a fingerhold. Smile And, I would like to share that as it relates to the three points above:


Quote:

1.) Gregory (Nazianzus)/"speculative theology"

2.) Hellenistic influence (as well as some aspects of Origenism)

3.) The way of asceticism has been elevated in importance and is taught as the vehicle or way which is more of an active way, within Eastern Orthodoxy, as opposed to the ancient doctrine of theopoeisis which looks to the Spirit to bestow gifts on the Christian who receives them passively, and through Grace.

It occurs to me that I can do away with all research and consideration of the first two points here because it doesn't matter what one's conclusion is about Gregory, a Hellenistic influence, or Origenism. Whether or not these things are true just doesn't matter.

Because at the end of the day, point #3 still comes into play and regardless of how or why it is explained that these two approaches (theopoiesis and theosis) have been arrived at, these two schools of thought exist and compete.

Does this make any sense? :?: I'm not trying to cut any conversation(s) short, but more moving to the heart of the matter as I see it. As you say Marc, regardless of which doctrine one agrees with . . . to bring both "sides" into the discussion (on the first two points) would be to bring about a running in circles on the issues in the first two points above. Based on my past experience, in discussions of religious ways/systems, things that serve to primarily to explain and buttress one's own point of view, or the view or a particular group, while at the same time dismantling another's point of view, or the view of their particular group, there is not much fruit to be found or a changing of one's mindset to be experienced . . . especially as it relates to some points which are really unnecessary features.

In my mind, the heart of the matter is to be found in an understanding of point #3.

And, if any have the appetite for this, I would like to mention that these two ways, or these two approaches represent mindsets that are not unique to Orthodoxy at all. In fact, after coming to a better understanding of what is being said, and while this distinction that is being drawn here seems to be one that every Orthodox person that I have communication with has never heard of . . . what lies at the center of this distinction is a very old and well worn path in Protestantism/Evangelicalism.

In short, this is a controversy that is "old hat" to many non-Orthodox Christians from the days of the German Pietists (early 1600's) and forward. In fact, it is interesting that much of what is presented about theopoiesis (which is considered to be the ancient teaching) is exactly what is behind the charge, of some, that the ancient teaching/true doctrine of the Church was corrupted and perverted shortly after the days of the persecution of the Church ended . . . and it was only in the days of the Reformation that the true teaching of Christ and the Apostles was recovered.

So without me running out to sea with this any further . . . I think what I am wondering now falls into two categories. And, I understand that any answers provided here will contain a significant degree of subjectivity; however:

I.) Of those representing the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria who desire to bring about a correction (or even just simple awareness of the issues), in the assertion that theopoiesis and theosis are two different doctrines . . . how many of these individuals are converts, how many of these have protestant or evangelical backgrounds?


II.) After searching for a couple of weeks through my EO friends/contacts I cannot find anyone who has ever heard of this distinction that is being drawn here--they feel this is a distiction that does not exist in reality, but is an artifical separation that is politically motivated, or one that would require an inner knowledge of what is purcolating in Coptic Orthodoxy today. So, if we were to make a list of Coptic writing theologians who speak directly to the issue of the reality/validity of the charge of corruption of the doctrine of theopoeisis and the resulting doctrine of theosis . . . how many names would be on this list?

Thanks again very much Marc for your williness to discuss!

In Christ,
Rick


- marc hanna - 27-04-2009 01:31 PM

There are not a lot of writers on the issue, this is true. But we must examine why this is the case. Take into consideration that after the schism and the Arab invasions the Coptic church continued on in much isolation and therefore the controversy could never have developed, meanwhile in the EO churches their developing doctrine of theosis had to be substantiated by great saints such as Athanasius and so it was necessary to reconcile it by saying that he meant the same thing.

I recent years there has been much more communication between the churches and much has been done in English, and be it in the spirit of unity or ignorance or whatever, it has just been said the we share the same belief on the topic of theosis. It appears that much of the problem is the result of ignorance on the side of the OO's in that being presented with the refined catechisms of the EO and RC churches and other bold and more modern sources of theological statements that we did not want to appear as inferior. But in reality, many OO laity were confronted by vast superior knowledge when defending their faith to their Eo counterparts.

I think there has been a big scramble to get up to speed in recent decades in terms of theology by OO's, and mistakes have been made, and incorrect information has been distributed.

BTW I am myself from a protestant/evangelical background, but I don't believe that there was a "great apostasy", I just think that in the case of the OO's that theology wasn't of great importance for a couple of centuries - which indeed it truly isn't for the sake of salvation, but is for the sake of refuting those who are leading people astray.


- admin - 27-04-2009 03:42 PM

Hi Rick

In my reading around the topic of the Jesus Prayer I have noticed a few things that stick in my mind.

Firstly, both Abouna Matta el Meskeen and Lev Gillet (the Monk of the Eastern Church), consider that the Eastern Orthodox spiritual tradition has become too systematised and professionalised, and that this is a bad thing.

I have tended to agree, as far as my opinion has any weight at all. I have been on many Eastern Orthodox forums where Christians are being told that they should not develop any sort of prayer rule without an experienced spiritual guide, and that they should not dream of praying the Jesus Prayer as it is bound to lead to disaster.

Matta el Meskeen and Lev Gillet point to the Jesus Prayer becoming the subject of discussions about the right words to use, and they suggest that the Eastern Orthodox spiritual tradition in the middle ages lost the flexibility and vitality which was the hall mark of the earlier period of spiritual teachings.

Certainly in my own readings I see that there were a wide variety of phrases being used as short prayers to keep the mind and heart focused on God, and in the Deserts they especially used 'O God makes speed to save me, O Lord make haste to help me'.

Secondly, in my own reading I have noticed a tendency in the later Eastern Orthodox tradition for their to be a focus on spiritual results, such that I have read Eastern Orthodox Fathers who explicitly state that the end of prayer is the vision of the uncreated light, and who even provide teaching about what is the quickest and easiest way to see this light.

I found, and still find, such an emphasis problematic.

On the other hand, I am grateful for a more earthy tradition from the Deserts, and of course from many other writers, both EO and OO, which describes spiritual results as an uncalled for gift, and all spiritual exercises merely a preparation and duty, not a means to an end.

Yet there is a danger in that such an earthy view becomes simply moralistic. And I have seen in some places an understanding of theosis/deification as simply 'doing what is right', but doing it more and more. I cannot accept a moralistic view of the Christian spiritual life any more than a systematised one.

I hope that there is a solid middle ground in which the spiritual ascesis is a right response to God, but does not demand anything in itself, but lives in hope. And that the true theosis is that living in the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is the renewal of our humanity, and is the gift of God Himself to us.

St Seraphim of Sarov seems to me to have it right when he says that the end of our life is to acquire the Holy Spirit, and he is not acquired by a system, or by merely being moral. Indeed he is the giver of gifts and the gift himself. A gift is not deserved, but it is received with thanksgiving.

I would like to see us make more of the Holy Spirit, as increasingly I believe that my Christian life is essentially and fundamentally life lived in the Spirit or it is not true life at all.

I have sense some differences among some EO. A real hesitancy to say that the fulness of the spiritual life is for all, a real fear of encouraging ordinary folk to seek such a life. That is why I enjoyed Orthodox Prayer Life so much because it encourages ordinary people to aspire to a deep spiritual life in Christ. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic work which was translated and edited into Russian Orthodoxy as Unseen Warfare is brilliant because it is also practical and open to all. But it seems to me that Unseen Warfare also avoids the spiritual systematisation of the middle ages in Eastern Orthodoxy.

There is something wrong when I read a convert EO hesitating to develop a spiritual life because he has no spiritual guide. Of course there is a danger of being deceived and of becoming prideful, but I always think of the passage where our Lord says, 'who among you if his child asks for bread will give him a stone'. But there is also something wrong when young OO think that holiness is a matter of avoiding certain activities.

I hope that we can find a common tradition which still exists in the EO and OO and which is rooted in the Soteriology of St Cyril. There are discussions and controversies about this subject in the Coptic Orthodox community but I do think that as Marc suggests, this is partly because some Copts have merely taken the medieval development of one aspect of spirituality in the EO and tried to present it as being the continuous tradition of the OO. I am not sure that it is. But behind both there is a genuine spiritual tradition which is still present in the EO and OO, though sometimes neglected as not being sophisticated enough.

Father Peter


- Rick Henry - 28-04-2009 01:04 PM

Truth Speaking to Power?


marc hanna Wrote:There are not a lot of writers on the issue, this is true. But we must examine why this is the case.


Dear Marc,

I would like to say thanks again for your contributions here. I really appreciate your attitude and am envious of the way you are able to communicate clearly. It is obvious from your posts here and elsewhere that you are both knowledgeable and sincere. I'm starting to notice a trend here with "you" OO's. Smile

And, as I read from Father Peter's writing:

admin Wrote:There are discussions and controversies about this subject in the Coptic Orthodox community but I do think that as Marc suggests, this is partly because some Copts have merely taken the medieval development of one aspect of spirituality in the EO and tried to present it as being the continuous tradition of the OO.

This seems to be important in my mind. This reference to continuous tradition is a trump card as it relates to EO and everything I have learned about EO, especially the cliches that are bantered about regarding tradition.

As I'm sure you can imagine, when a 'seemingly' new position is presented to a person, and then the person begins to investigate the claims of this 'seemingly' new thing, and this person finds out that what is presented as nothing short of a universal doctrine for a particular faith tradition which includes the thinking of a deacon and a priest and one thirty page position paper written by the same priest . . . then again, I think you can imagine how this presentation may not be too well received.

But, as we do consider, "why this is the case" as well as what may be "one aspect of spirituality" in relation to thinking on a "continuous tradition," then this is a key resource.

And, just for the record I allow room for what has been shared here. In many ways it ties some things together for me, and while this may be a burden bestowing teaching for some, this is actually a burden lifting teaching for me as I understand it at the present. Because, to retreat from my earlier thinking somewhat, to have this presentation in mind (of theopoiesis) harmonizes/juxtaposes some things I have struggled with as it relates to some things that I thought could only be moved beyond, or transcended, in order to not be inconsistent with what we are saying in Orthodoxy today. And, without getting into some of these now (which I have discussed in the past with Father Peter and John Charmely) . . . look at what Father Peter is saying about "a genuine spiritual tradition" which is still present in Orthodoxy today, which is *behind* both (as opposed to being *beyond* both).

So this matters.

This "distinction" [what is behind both],speaks of the Community of communities. And, this is why I and probably the great majority of people 'converted' to Orthodoxy. We felt we were making a move to "a genuine spiritual tradition." Right? At least I, anyway, didn't think I was making a move into an arena where the different contestants wearing different Ortho-labels were turned loose on each other and there was a gnashing of teeth followed by a sinking of the teeth into each other in an attempt to tear each other apart. I thought I was making a move into the Community of communities which, as from 'the beginning' of the New Testament Church has represented this genuine spiritual tradition which Father Peter speaks of so well.

So as it relates to our topic here which does not have volumes and volumes of material to read about it. And, which seems to have its main presuppositions supported mainly by subjective observations like:

marc hanna Wrote:I recent years there has been much more communication between the churches and much has been done in English, and be it in the spirit of unity or ignorance or whatever, it has just been said the we share the same belief on the topic of theosis. It appears that much of the problem is the result of ignorance on the side of the OO's in that being presented with the refined catechisms of the EO and RC churches and other bold and more modern sources of theological statements that we did not want to appear as inferior. But in reality, many OO laity were confronted by vast superior knowledge when defending their faith to their Eo counterparts.

I think there has been a big scramble to get up to speed in recent decades in terms of theology by OO's, and mistakes have been made, and incorrect information has been distributed.

This is a tough row to hoe. Because, as it relates to both messing with someone's existing "system" and operating from what is not a strong position to argue from, by way of numbers, I can see why more than a few would borrow the words of Martin Luther and say, "Into the ash can with your suppositions."

But, as we consider a look at Historical Theology in light of what Father Peter has said above, we are reminded that just as the minority view is not always the immature view, the majority view is not always the mature view.

But, at this point Marc, I am wondering if this is it?

I know what my heart is telling me about this distinction between theopoiesis and theosis . . . and, while knowing the intellect is not the enemy of faith and that this is a faith based business in the end . . .

Don't get me wrong, I'm not so sure that this isn't IT or at least a key for unlocking the way to the IT in terms of understanding that there is more than one aspect of this genuine spiritual tradition (which can be understood in terms of Fr. Jack Sparks teaching viz. 'each as is appropriate for oneself.')

However, to be crystal clear about this, I am wondering at this point:

1.) Do we have anything else to present from others of the last twenty years that would support the assertions that you have made about the last twenty years?

2.) Do we have anything else like the paper from your priest which speaks directly to this issue?

In Christ,
Rick


- admin - 28-04-2009 01:17 PM

Just a quick note as I pass through..

on books.google.co.uk do a search for Orthodox Prayer Life and you should be able to access Father Matta's book. He has a chapter on 'union with God' which starts at page 102. I will read it again before posting. But his is a modern Coptic voice on the subject, and it will be interesting to read him through the lens of this distinction which Marc has proposed.

Father Peter


- marc hanna - 28-04-2009 02:47 PM

Rick,

Carl Mosser, Norman Russel and John McGuckin have all spoken the difference in several of their books. But do we really need modern authors to write about something that we can read directly from the fathers ourselves? Mind you, we have been slightly betrayed by the English translators, so keep in mind that St Athanasius did not use the term theosis and Gregory Nazianzen did not use theopoiesis.

Also, keep in mind what it meant in that period to use different and like terminology: using specific terminology as used by some one else was a way of agreeing with some one's theology, by using different terminology, one was indirectly stating that they were indeed teaching a different theology. Take into consideration homoousion and homoiousion, theotokos and christotokos, from two natures and in two natures.

Now there was certainly not the same kind controversy over theopoiesis and theosis but the fathers were careful to not share the same terminology - this testifies to these great fathers and their desire to maintain unity and appreciating that this was not something to divide the church over especially as they were still stirring in the wake of the Arian controversy.

I appreciate your open-mindedness on this topic, Rick, and just because there aren't a lot of authors discussing the difference, it does not mean that it is trivial or for the purpose of stirring controversy: we as OO's don't live our spiritual lives as a comparison to EO's, we live our spiritual lives despite what the EO's are doing, we have always been content with what the fathers have taught us, but in recent years (mostly in the last 10 -15 and not before 25 years ago) there has been talk of theosis in the Coptic church, and this is simply not a part of our tradition - it is an innovation in Coptic tradition.

And the difference is also observed in practice in our monastic traditions the EO tradition is contemplative and meditative while OO tradition is prayer while working or weaving baskets or making things, which then all ties into what Father Peter said.

The fact that only a few people are now speaking out, is because of the observance of shift in our tradition, unlike those who jumped on the bandwagon of theosis those of us working to expound the difference are much more cautious because we certainly do not want to cause division our damage anyone's faith.

Like I said before, I learned from St Athanasius, Cyril and Severus what our tradition was and then later, I learned about theosis and said to myself this is not our tradition, then I learned even more, that many Copts were teaching this as our tradition. As I have observed in some people's understanding in the Coptic church, their opinion is greatly affected by those sources from which they received their theological understanding, which I find many who learn independently, have received from EO sources. This is a sad reality, EO resources are more plentiful and more readily available to Copts (and especially the younger English speaking generation) than OO resources.


- marc hanna - 28-04-2009 02:47 PM

Rick,

Carl Mosser, Norman Russel and John McGuckin have all spoken the difference in several of their books. But do we really need modern authors to write about something that we can read directly from the fathers ourselves? Mind you, we have been slightly betrayed by the English translators, so keep in mind that St Athanasius did not use the term theosis and Gregory Nazianzen did not use theopoiesis.

Also, keep in mind what it meant in that period to use different and like terminology: using specific terminology as used by some one else was a way of agreeing with some one's theology, by using different terminology, one was indirectly stating that they were indeed teaching a different theology. Take into consideration homoousion and homoiousion, theotokos and christotokos, from two natures and in two natures.

Now there was certainly not the same kind controversy over theopoiesis and theosis but the fathers were careful to not share the same terminology - this testifies to these great fathers and their desire to maintain unity and appreciating that this was not something to divide the church over especially as they were still stirring in the wake of the Arian controversy.

I appreciate your open-mindedness on this topic, Rick, and just because there aren't a lot of authors discussing the difference, it does not mean that it is trivial or for the purpose of stirring controversy: we as OO's don't live our spiritual lives as a comparison to EO's, we live our spiritual lives despite what the EO's are doing, we have always been content with what the fathers have taught us, but in recent years (mostly in the last 10 -15 and not before 25 years ago) there has been talk of theosis in the Coptic church, and this is simply not a part of our tradition - it is an innovation in Coptic tradition.

And the difference is also observed in practice in our monastic traditions the EO tradition is contemplative and meditative while OO tradition is prayer while working or weaving baskets or making things, which then all ties into what Father Peter said.

The fact that only a few people are now speaking out, is because of the observance of shift in our tradition, unlike those who jumped on the bandwagon of theosis those of us working to expound the difference are much more cautious because we certainly do not want to cause division our damage anyone's faith.

Like I said before, I learned from St Athanasius, Cyril and Severus what our tradition was and then later, I learned about theosis and said to myself this is not our tradition, then I learned even more, that many Copts were teaching this as our tradition. As I have observed in some people's understanding in the Coptic church, their opinion is greatly affected by those sources from which they received their theological understanding, which I find many who learn independently, have received from EO sources. This is a sad reality, EO resources are more plentiful and more readily available to Copts (and especially the younger English speaking generation) than OO resources.


- Rick Henry - 28-04-2009 04:44 PM

Let's do the easy part first . . .


marc hanna Wrote:Carl Mosser, Norman Russel and John McGuckin have all spoken the difference in several of their books. But do we really need modern authors to write about something that we can read directly from the fathers ourselves?

Dear Marc,

Carl Mosser, from Eastern College seems to be a Baptist. For that matter the quote I gave you on the previous page in this thread, for your review was from Peter Leithhart who seems to be a Presbyterian. Liethart was interacting with Mosser's material in that quote. Norman Russell is listed as an independent scholar. John McGuckin was a Roman Catholic who converted to Greek Orthodoxy; however, the only contribution that I can see from McGuckin to this conversation is as it relates to the charge of Hellenism in Greek thinking (which seems to be really an unecessary feature).

I have a high level of interest in what is being presented here, and I hope you don't think I am dogging you on this, but when I do invest time in a topic, such as this, I like to have a thorough understanding of what is being said.

I agree that a proper understanding--the meat and potatoes--of this will be found not in contemporary writing theologians and quotes (without context) from second hand sources; but, from the fathers themselves. However, I think it would be an easy task to knock out my questions about who is saying what in the present day. I guess even in this study there is a retrieval effort going on.

And, I know that no one likes to be put on the spot, but again, in an effort to be academically honest and keep the integrity in place in this conversation, I would like to know (and read for myself) what we have from Orthodoxy today, from Orthodox writing theologians that speaks directly to what is being said by two men in Canada.

I hope you can handle this mode Marc. I have a feeling that you can. Smile If I see in your next post that you can't then please forgive me, and I will abandon a direct approach. I understand that we cannot have "conversations" like this with everyone, but when I was in seminary, there was a dynamic in the classroom that involved a very direct style of communication between those in the classroom. We did not do much tap dancing, shuffling off to Buffalo, or beating around the bush . . . and we often times covered a lot of ground in a short time this way, and found that there was a dynamic created that was greater than the sum total of the individual parts/participants. So, I would like to modify my questions and represent them in the following:


1.) Do we have anything else, from Orthodox sources, to present from others of the last twenty years that would speak directly to and support the assertions that you have made about the last twenty years?

2.) Do we have anything else, from Orthodox sources, like the paper from your priest which speaks directly to this issue?

Father Peter has offered an avenue to pursue, and I would also like to respond to his post he made yesterday as well.

But, as for now, it seems that it would not be to hard to answer these two questions from your informed perspective. If there are no other Orthodox sources which support your observations of the last twenty years, or no other Orthodox writing theologians who are writing what your priest is writing, then this is okay. It doesn't change anything.

But, before moving to read directly from the fathers, I would like to clearly understand who is writing about this distinction in the present day and the events of the last twenty years, and I would like to read what they have written.

For that matter as it relates to "the heart of the matter" in terms of what theopoiesis is and what theosis is, if we are going to bring in thinking from Protestant and independent scholars, such as the men mentioned above, then I can write a book, based on my former non-Orthodox learning, about how all of this and how sonship and adoption are linked with grace, baptism, perfection, and renewal. In fact, if you want to bring in the renewal theologians and holiness writers from Protestantism, as well as the Neo-Orthodox we can really go to town on this and support theopoiesis as being the "ancient doctrine" and completely overwhelm the Cappadocians and other Byzantine mystics and their 'barbaric/alien' doctrine of theosis! But, what would we have at the end of the day there?

I just had my once-per-day latte with three shots of espresso in it for today . . . can you tell? :shock:


So, I will pull off of this now; but, unless we can add some contemporary Orthodox writers to this list of Orthodox sources who support the assertions of you and your priest, I am going to conclude that there are no others.

Here I'll start the list now:

1.) Marc
2.) Marc's Priest

In Christ,
Rick

PS It would be fantastic if your Priest ever had time to join this fellowship and participate in this conversation.


- marc hanna - 29-04-2009 02:57 PM

Personally, I like my espresso straight.

To my knowledge, there are no other contemporary Orthodox writers speaking to the difference of thepoiesis and theosis, but the issue is being debated among the hierarchs. This is not to say that what the Copts are writing about and what the Easterners are writing about are currently the same thing, for if we examine each's writings we find a very dissimilar spirit in them.

I am currently digging deeper into the contemporary EO understanding of theosis, which I am finding is almost identical to platonism - concepts such as the contemplative ascension of one's spirit to the level of theoria, and the ascent to God as much as can be attained are flipped directly over into the Byzantine doctrine of theosis. This is certainly not the same as St Athansius' descension of the Son to us and our adoption as sons of God. For the EO tradition there appears to be a necessity to understand theosis that is critical to salvation, thereby making heaven for those elitist theologians who are best able to grasp the nature of God. Or if not that, only for those who are able to attain a level of theosis, which if they had no knowledge of would have been unable to seek in the first place.

I'll leave you with a little Plato for your consideration. From the Republic:

Here is a parable to illustrate the degrees in which our nature may be
enlightened or unenlightened. Imagine the condition of men living in a sort
of cavernous chamber underground, with an entrance open to the light and
a long passage all down the cave. Here they have been from childhood,
chained by the leg and also by the neck, so that they cannot move and
can only see what is in front of them, because the chains will not let them
turn their heads. At some distance higher up is the light of a fire burning
behind them; and between the prisoners and the fire is a track with a
parapet built along it, like the screen at a puppet-show, which hides the
performers while they show their puppets over the top.
Now, behind this parapet imagine persons carrying along various artificial
objects, including figures of men and animals in wood or stone or other
materials, which project above the parapet. Naturally, some of these
persons will be talking, others silent....A strange picture, and a strange
sort of prisoners ? like ourselves. For in the first place prisoners so
confined would have seen nothing of themselves or of one another, except
the shadows thrown by the fire-light on the wall of the Cave facing them,
and they would have seen as little of the objects carried past. Now, if they
could talk to one another, would they not suppose that their words
referred only to those passing shadows which they saw? And suppose their
prison had an echo from the wall facing them? When one of the people
crossing behind them spoke, they could only suppose that the sound came
from the shadow passing before their eyes. In every way, then, such prisoners would
recognize as reality nothing but the shadows of those artificial objects.
Now consider what would happen if their release from the chains and the
healing of their unwisdom should come about in this way. Suppose one of
them was set free and forced suddenly to stand up, turn his head, and
walk with eyes lifted to the light; all these movements would be painful,
and he would be too dazed to make out the objects whose shadows he
had been used to see. What do you think he would say, if someone told
him that what he had formerly seen was meaningless illusion, but now,
being somewhat nearer to reality and turned towards more real objects, he
was getting a truer view? Suppose further that he were shown the various
objects being carried by and were made to say, in reply to questions, what
each of them was. Would he not be perplexed and believe the objects now
shown him to be not so real as what he formerly saw? And if he were
forced to look at the fire-light itself, would not his eyes ache, so that he
would try to escape and turn back to the things which he could see
distinctly, convinced that they really were clearer than these other objects
now being shown to him? And suppose someone were to drag him away
forcibly up the steep and rugged ascent and not let him go until he had hauled him out into the sunlight, would he not suffer pain and vexation at
such treatment, and, when he had come out into the light, find his eyes so
full of its radiance that he could not see a single one of the things that he
was now told were real?
He would need, then, to grow accustomed before he could see things in
that upper world. At first it would be easiest to make out shadows, and
then the images of men and things reflected in water, and later on the
things themselves. After that, it would be easier to watch the heavenly
bodies and the sky itself by night, looking at the light of the moon and
stars rather than the Sun and the Sun's light in the day-time.
Last of all, he would be able to look at the Sun and contemplate its
nature, not as it appears when reflected in water or any alien medium, but
as it is in itself in its own domain. And now he would begin to draw the
conclusion that it is the Sun that produces the seasons and the courses of
the year and controls everything in the visible world, and moreover, is in a
way the cause of all that he and his companions used to see.(514 A?516
C) 5


PS:
I came to this forum to get away from the dynamic of other forums, which entail the bullying and negating of other's thoughts and concepts. If this is the dynamic you propose, then I would say, no I'm not up for it, but if you seek an intelligent discussion that gets us closer to the truth, then, yes I would like to pursue that.

My career is to argue a point of view and position it so that government reviewers are unable to dispute it, and I'm quite good at it; however, I have no desire to bend and distort the facts in my spiritual life because that would lead to my own ruin and possibly the ruin of others. Spiritually, we should build foundations of truth and humility.

Also, I would like to remind you of the confidentiality regarding the authorship of the article I sent you, third party recipients may not respect the agreement we had.


- Rick Henry - 29-04-2009 03:06 PM

admin Wrote:I hope that there is a solid middle ground in which the spiritual ascesis is a right response to God, but does not demand anything in itself, but lives in hope.

I hope that we can find a common tradition which still exists in the EO and OO and which is rooted in the Soteriology of St Cyril . . . But behind both there is a genuine spiritual tradition which is still present in the EO and OO, though sometimes neglected as not being sophisticated enough.

Dear Father Peter,

When I read most of your posts here and elsewhere, I feel that you are 'preaching to the choir' as the expression goes, and that I am sitting in the choir.

As I read of a hope for a "solid middle ground," and a "genuine spiritual tradition" as it relates to our topic at hand, and as I read the comments of some who feel that the Eastern Orthodox spiritual tradition has become too systematised and professionalised, I think the two thought units are not unrelated.

And, while I agree with the both your theology of hope and the later comment above, I would add to the latter (systematised and professionalised) a thought about a 'control freakery' that seems to be a motivating force in this as well. Especially, as we consider what I have read as well that some "Christians are being told that they should not develop any sort of prayer rule without an experienced spiritual guide, and that they should not dream of praying the Jesus Prayer as it is bound to lead to disaster." Admittedly, there needs to be a balanced approach here, but what a cosmic irony in this.

But, ultimately it seems there has to be a middle ground which is also a common ground in all of this as you have written in the remainder of your post from the other day. And, without me quoting the entirety of that post, what I am driving at is a question.

Whether one's "system" is more earthly/moralistic or more of a spiritual systemization, is it too simple to just know that in one's "approach" in one's "pursuit" whereby one attempts to apprehend that for which he was apprehended . . . where one is pursuing the pursuer . . . is it too simple to just acknowledge that one size does not fit all?

Is it too unsophisticated to just understand that some are called to a more earthly path and others are called to a more (for the lack of a better word) contemplative path?

I have read much about those who would argue the contemplative way and THE way and those who would argue the way of praxis as THE way whereby the thinking is that 'my' way is the right way and all other ways are to be viewed as an erroneous understanding of the 'ancient doctrine.'

Is it too far out of the picture to be seen that for some to give a cold drink of water to the least of humanity, to the alienated in society is to partake in the divine nature and to make more of the Holy Spirit in that one's life? While at the same time, is it too far out of the picture for one to actually find a somewhat severe ascesis and rule of obedience (under the hand of those that might be considered masters of 'control freakery') as a means to an end, with a direct experience of the Holy Spirit as that end? Do you know what I mean, not all are called to be married and raise families in a city, not all are called to live in a cave alone?

I keep thinking of the writing of Fr. Jack Sparks (Greek Orthodox) who makes a very strong case for the fact that we are to pursue God 'each as is appropriate for oneself.' I have given just a few examples above of different approaches, but how could it be any other way? Some live in monasteries and feel that they are the only ones able to experience the fullness of the Spirit, and to this it has been answered:

Quote: I guess the question arises though because of the degree of monastic obedience and asceticism. The laity rightfully ask to what degree they should be following this also?

The answer I think is, 'to the degree that is right for them'. At first sight this might seem like a lot less than a monastic. But if pursued faithfully it could well be that it is actually as great as anything offered by monasticism.

So what if it is all just a complete waste of time, and in the end, we actually detract others from a faithful pursuit of God because discussion like this breeds confusion and doubt more than anything else? What if in the process of attempting to show people the light so that they can join us and walk like us and talk like us and cut their hair like us and do things our way . . . we have just pulled them from path that they needed to be on?

And, now I'm thinking of your Indian shopkeeper friend again believe it or not! Smile I cannot seem to get this man out of my mind. But, this means I need to end my post post haste! Wink

So I will, but not first without a quote from Vladimir Lossky from "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church:"

Quote:If while remaining loyal to our respective dogmatic standpoints we could succeed in getting to know each other, above all in those points in which we differ, this would undoubtedly be a surer way towards unity than that which would leave differences on one side. For, in the words of Karl Barth, 'the union of the Churches is not made, but we discover it'.

So, you know . . . forget about even the above sentiment whereby points are argued to the point where the listener is confused to the point of being paralyzed with fear in developing anything remotely resembling a prayer rule or a spiritual practice (moral or other) in her pursuit of God, how worthwhile is it to attempt to make or determine a unity/union that can only be discovered?

But, now we are back to a previous discussion of 'community' and 'society' so I really know it's time to go now!

In Christ,
Rick

PS It occurs to me know after fishing out this Lossky quote that he has much to say about our topic at hand (as well as my previous comment about wanting to thouroughly understand our topic!).